Saturday, September 13, 2014

Food law symposium notice and call for articles/speakers

Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum has issued a call for articles and presenters for a symposium on the national food system, which will be at Duke Law school on Friday, January 23, 2015. The working title is  "Carrots and Sticks: Moving the U.S. National Food System Toward a Sustainable Future." According to the announcement I received today, the students are in the final stages of soliciting articles and speakers, and are particularly interested in contributions on food safety and labeling.
If you're interested in contributing an article or participating in some way, you can contact Editor-in-Chief Francesca Bochner at, or Managing Editor Gordon Sommers at   
According to Michelle Nowlin, Supervising Attorney and Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, Durham boasts pleasant January weather, an exceptional year-round Farmers' Market, many fine farm-to-table restaurants, has received many awards for its dedication to the modern food movement, and supports several independent food aggregators who are working to rebuild the regional food system. Duke also has an excellent campus farm that encourages visitors from other academic institutions. For more information on Durham, visit:,  www.easterncarolinaorganics.com

September 13, 2014 in Agriculture, Conferences, Food | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The common sense of self-published legal e-casebooks, or, Why on earth would anyone publish a casebook with a major legal publisher these days?

The cost of law school casebooks is truly staggering; they are almost twice what they were when I finished law school about a decade ago.  Further, very few law professors are getting rich off the relatively insignificant royalties.  Add to this the fact that the major publishers seem intent on a business model that will limit students' ability to resell casebooks in the used books market (witness the Durkminier casebook debacle), and it is a wonder that more law professors are not writing casebooks as self-published e-books.

Law casebooks are peculiarly amenable to self-publishing, it seems to me.  First, in most cases, much of the material in a casebook--cases, statutes, regulations--is in the public domain.  Second, there is very little need for complicated graphic design:  it's essentially one long Word file.  Third, students that purchase an e-casebook can print out each day's portion of the casebook rather than carrying around a thousand-page tome and thereby save on chiropractor visits.  Fourth, professors can readily update the casebook as new cases come along rather than having to provide cumbersome supplements.

Let me give you an example.  A friend of mine, Jeffrey Litwak, an attorney with the Columbia River Gorge Commission and long-time adjunct at Lewis & Clark, recently self-published an e-casebook with Semaphore Press called Interstate Compact Law: Cases and Materials v. 2.0.  The casebook looks great and is completely indistinguishable in format from one of the major publishers.  The price:  $30.  This is a great deal professor and student.  First, students receive a 330-page casebook on interstate compact law, a fascinating subject with an admittedly small market that likely would never warrant a casebook format otherwise.  Second, the price is eminently reasonable for students.  Third, the royalties scheme offered by Semaphore Press rivals any offer for such a casebook by a traditional publisher.  For those casebooks that have a large reach, I imagine the professors would likely find themselves receiving greater royalties.

So why have legal scholars not jumped on the e-casebook bandwagon?  Is it simply the prestige of being able to say that one has been published by a major casebook publisher?  Presumably there is something to that; however, significantly reducing student debt and increasing professorial royalties also seem to warrant some attention, both of which I imagine would be simultaneously assisted by a wholesale turn to self-published legal e-casebooks.  All the tide needs, I think, is one or two prominent professors to make the switch, and let the rest of us mere mortals know it is okay to march, in lock-step, into Law v. 2.0.

Check out the unusual terms of Semaphore Press, for students and professors, here.

Stephen R. Miller

September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Job Announcement: Environmental Dispute Resolution Prorgram at Utah

University of Utah is hiring an Associate Director for its Environmental Dispute Resolution Program

The Environmental Dispute Resolution Program (EDRP) Associate Director will be responsible for   working with the EDRP Director to support existing and develop new program activities. The EDR Program was established in 2012 as part of the Wallace Stegner Center at the University of  Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law.

EDRP promotes collaboration, mediation, and other dispute resolution processes as a means to address contemporary environmental and natural resource (ENR)  conflicts, with particular  focus  on Utah and the Mountain West. The  program encompasses four general categories of activity: (1)  academic instruction; (2) public education; (3) research and analysis;  and (4) process design, facilitation and  mediation services. More information about the EDR Program’s  mission and activities is available at  the program’s website.

The Associate Director position is new to the EDR Program. The position  has secure funding for  one year; the position’s continuation  is contingent  on continued or additional funding. The Associate  Director will have the following minimum responsibilities, with additional opportunities  possible according to the applicant’s interests and  background:

  • Capacity Building: Develop curriculum  and provide instructional support for workshops and other training programs. This can also include guest-­‐speaking in law school and other graduate-­‐ level courses across campus.
  • Public Education: Develop content for public education materials, including coordinating the  recently launched EDR Blog. Develop new approaches for educating key constituencies  about the benefits of collaboration and mediation as  ways for resolving ENR conflicts. Work with the Director to forge relationships with the public,  government and other stakeholders  to facilitate alternative dispute resolution solutions on these issues.
  •  Third Party Neutral Services: Provide process design, mediation, facilitation, conflict  coaching, and/or other third party neutral services on request from ENR stakeholders.This includes work on projects EDRP is already involved in, and developing new projects that demonstrate best practices, pilot new approaches and/or provide skills development  opportunities for clinical law students.
  • Convening and Situation  Assessments: Work with the Director to identify opportunities to  conduct situation assessments or convene dialogues to proactively address issues of local,
    regional, and national importance by bringing together stakeholders of differing ideologies to identify common ground.
  • Program development: Provide support to the Director in program development activities, such as newsletters, conference presentations, fundraising, donor relations, and grant writing.
  • Research: Research and writing, to the extent the applicant is interested and has time available. Development of a case study library highlighting  best practices and lessons learned would be very  useful to the program.

Posting Title:  Assoc Director, Administration
Posting Number: PRN06748B
Department:  00096 - College of Law – Dean 

September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Commissioner's Corner: High school students at the Planning Commission

[This series of blog posts, designated Commissioner's Corner, is based upon my reflections as a commissioner on the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission.]

It is a new school year, and the evidence is everywhere, even at the Planning Commission.  This week, I was surprised to learn that Boise has a great tradition of choosing a "student commissioner" to sit with the Commission at each of its hearings during the year.  The student commissioner can participate in hearings as would an appointed commissioner--asking questions, and so forth--but cannot make motions or otherwise vote on projects.  I think this is a fabulous way to get students involved in the planning process at an early age.  When I came home, I mentioned this student commissioner to our babysitter.  "Oh!," she exclaimed, "I'm the student delegate to the Parks & Rec Development Impact Fee Advisory Committee," which determines how to use park impact fee dollars.  I was surprised again, and proud of Boise.  The city's integration of high school students into the planning process shows a long-term effort to build understanding of the planning process that you don't see in most jurisdictions, even many deemed "progressive."  It seems a worthy model for other local governments to consider.

Stephen R. Miller


September 10, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 8, 2014

October 1: Call for Papers: “Rural as a Dimension of Environmental Injustice”

Call for Papers: “Rural as a Dimension of Environmental Injustice”

Paper Abstracts Due: October 1st

Papers Invited for Submission Due: February 1st

Submission: Email abstracts (up to 350-words) to Loka Ashwood and Kate MacTavish.

Changing community and production dynamics make rural places a state-sanctioned site for some of the most hazardous and toxic industries of our time. From its production treadmill, industrial agriculture has cast onto rural areas a plethora of negative externalities: mounting levels of air and water pollution, farm consolidation, and depopulation. A range of extractive and other risky industries justify the siting of facilities in rural areas because of easy access to ample natural resources, sparse populations that reduce exposure risk, and the possibility of economic revitalization. State and federal statutes in the U.S. context (e.g., Right To Farm laws, the Federal Code of Regulations for Nuclear Operations) often permit these industries to target rural America based on past practice and low population levels. Cities serve as powerful hubs for the global economy, pulling away resources from less prominent urban and rural areas. The growing periphery within core countries, as well as continued resource extraction of rural places abroad, calls for increased attention to the rural facets of injustice in developed and developing countries. We invite paper submissions that explore facets of the rural that help explain rural places’ vulnerability to environmental injustices from interdisciplinary perspectives, including (but not limited to) sociology, geography, law, anthropology, public health, and the environmental sciences. We are especially keen to receive papers from scholars working broadly on issues of environmental justice in order to foster conversation between those scholars and scholars whose focus on the rural more generally. Abstracts of interest will be reviewed and then select papers will be invited for full paper submission on February 1, 2015. Accepted papers will be published in a special issue of the Journal of Rural Studies.

September 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 23: UCI Law: Harmonizing Marijuana Legalization with Environmental, Land Use, and Other Regulations



The Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources (CLEANR) and Brown Rudnick LLP present

Harmonizing Marijuana Legalization with Environmental, Land Use, and Other Regulations

Annual Fall Symposium on Emerging Issues in Environmental Law Practice


Thursday, October 23, 2014, 8:00 a.m.–5:30 p.m.

EDU 1111, UC Irvine School of Law (map)

CLE credit is available for participants (8.0 credits)

Despite stringent regulation at the federal level, an increasing number of U.S. states have adopted laws legalizing the use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. Marijuana production activities are being openly conducted without prosecution, but a suite of land use and environmental laws may nonetheless regulate such conduct, including environmental impacts of farming, consumer product safety, pesticide use, the siting and location of farms and dispensaries, and use of public lands.
Attorneys also face uncertainty as to their ability to advise clients in the marijuana industry about these activities. This symposium explores these many issues, guided by leading practitioners and policymakers deeply involved at the interface of federal and state marijuana use and control.
Alejandro E. Camacho, Professor of Law, Director, Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources at UC Irvine School of Law, and Geoffrey K. Willis, Partner, Brown Rudnick LLP, will serve as moderators.

Keynote Speakers

William Lockyer William Lockyer California State Treasurer Dana Rohrabacher Dana Rohrabacher U.S. Congressman (R-CA) Tentative

Featured Speakers

Hilary V. Bricken The Canna Law Group City Attorney Tom Carr City of Boulder, Colorado
Stephen Cook Brown Rudnick LLP Andrew DeAngelo Harborside Health Center
Sean Donahoe National Cannabis Industry Association Hon. James P. Gray Orange County Superior Court (Ret.)
Lt. Patrick Hanson Fresno County, California Allison Margolin Margolin & Lawrence
Joel Miliband Brown Rudnick LLP Amy Poinsett MJ Freeway Business Solutions
Jeffrey Raber The Werc Shop Barbra M. Roach (Tentative) Drug Enforcement Administration
Deborah Rosenthal Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP Ann Southworth UC Irvine School of Law
Jacob Sullum Reason Sherry Tune U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
Sheriff John Urquhart King County,Washington  

Please register online >

General registration fee is $49
Registration is free for UCI faculty, staff and students if UCI email address is used for registration


Brown Rudnick logo


September 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Valuations Slow Housing Recovery

My last post alluded to the well-documented history of institutional factors, including the lack of access to credit, that contributed to Chicago’s status as one of the top five most segregated cities in the United States today.  A competing narrative of 20th century Chicago supposes segregation and neighborhood decline to be driven by individual preference, chiefly racial animus.  That story has its contemporary analogue as well.  Housing recovery in Chicago’s priciest neighborhoods has been robust, with prices exceeding pre-crash levels; not so in middle- and lower-income areas.  The gap could be explained in terms of individual choice: the difficulty in finding buyers for vacant foreclosed homes, then, would be “because few people [want] to move to those areas.”

But, as always, the story is more complex.   A story that ran on Chicago’s public radio station suggests that a lack of access to financing again poses a barrier.  Part of the problem is valuations, which are heavily impacted by the presence of vacant and foreclosed homes in an area.  WBEZ profiled a middle-class family who wanted financing to purchase a $182,000 two-flat* in the west Chicago neighborhood of Lawndale but were denied the loan when the property's appraisal came back at only $140,000.  The low appraisal of the occupied, income-producing building was due in part to the presence of foreclosed and vacant properties in the surrounding area.  With solid credit, the couple in the story ended up purchasing a house in a more stable neighborhood for $285,000, more than $100,000 more than they would have paid for the first property.

As the buyer stated:

My credit was good, [my husband's] credit was good. We had a lot in our savings. All it was was the value of the house. That’s all it boiled down to.  Which is baffling, very, very frustrating,” she said.


“Our friends who were looking in the area, they too were like middle class people who wanted to move back into Lawndale and to try to help build the community and they were just essentially being shut out,” she said.

Essentially, banks whose risky loans led to high rates of foreclosure filings and vacancies, which have in turn led to increased crime and blight in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, are now unable to lend money to buyers who wish to be part of the recovery of those neighborhoods precisely because of other vacancies.  As a result, per the WBEZ story, about 80% of the property purchases in Lawndale last year were cash transactions, shutting out some would-be buyers.  The fallout of the subprime mortgage crisis continues to hinder neighborhood recovery in complex ways.

~Celeste Pagano, DePaul University College of Law

*"Two flat" is the local lingo for a two-story building with one apartment upstairs and one down.  Elsewhere we might call this a "duplex," but Chicagoans reserve "duplex" to describe a building where each unit occupies two stories--or what you might know as a "townhouse."  Don't you love regionalisms?

September 8, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does New Plan to Protect Long Island Sound Sufficiently Prioritize Land Use?

Today, 20 years after approval of the original Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan, the Long Island Sound Study released a draft updated CCMP. The Long Island Sound Study, co-sponsored by the EPA and the states of Connecticut and New York, is a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies, universities, businesses, and environmental and community groups. According to an EPA press release, the draft Plan emphasizes the principles of sustainability, climate change resiliency, environmental justice and ecosystem-based management.

Recognizing the significance of land use to wetland and watershed protection, the draft Plan highlights the need for

  • Integration of transportation planning, conservation of energy and water, resiliency to climate change, and pollution control policies;
  • Smart growth and low impact development to minimize the environmental impacts of new and existing development;
  • Meeting numerous ecosystem-level targets such as increasing riparian buffers and open spaces; and,
  • Fully involving and responding to the needs of underserved communities.

The draft Plan describes the benefits of these investments in economic terms, explaining that they will provide substantial returns for the regional economy. 

"The financial value of goods and services provided to the region's economy by Long Island Sound Basin's natural systems ranges between $17 billion and $36.6 billion annually. Treated as a capital asset, the value of these natural systems, calculated using a standard 4% discount rate with a lifespan of 100 years, is $690 billion to $1.3 trillion (Kocian, 2014). Unlike built systems that depreciate, however, natural assets often accumulate value over time, particularly if they are protected and restored. In addition, an estimated 191,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region result from that the healthy function of these natural systems, and the associated stewardship work."

With respect to implementation and land use, the draft Plan identifies as "Implementation Actions"

  • Providing technical guidance for incorporating Low Impact Development/Green Infrastructure into development and redevelopment projects and through zoning and planning changes;
  • Reducing the amount of impervious cover that discharges directly into waterbodies;
  • Remediating brownfields;
  • Tracking implementation and effectiveness of approved watershed plans by local municipalities;
  • Promoting establishment and protection of riparian corridors and wetland buffers at the municipal level through development of local ordinances and promoting permanent land protection; and,
  • Increasing land protection efforts by municipalities and land protection organizations that permanently protect wetlands and riparian areas and buffers.

Notably, however, these Implementation Actions are not identified as "Priority Implementation Actions." Of course, prioritizing of implementation actions is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Given that EPA and the LISS are currently accepting comments on the draft updated Plan, those of us concerned with NE region watershed management should take a close look at the draft Plan, with particular attention to the Implementation Actions and their designation -- or lack thereof -- as "Priority." A copy of the draft Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan is available at the Long Island Sound Study website at

Public meetings on the draft plan will be held

  • September 16, 1:00 to 3:00pm, in Westbury, NY at the Yes Community Center
  • September 16, 6:00 to 8:00pm, in the Bronx, NY at Rocking The Boat
  • September 17, 2:30 to 4:30pm, in New Haven, CT at Southern Connecticut State University

Public comments on the plan will be accepted via email and post until Saturday, November 8, 2014. Emailed comments should be sent to Mailed comments should be sent to:

EPA Long Island Sound Office

Stamford Government Center

888 Washington Blvd.

Stamford, CT 06904-2152

Posted by Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (, (631)761-7137).

September 8, 2014 in Beaches, Climate, Coastal Regulation, Environmental Justice, New York, Smart Growth, Sustainability, Water, Wetlands | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 7, 2014

New Report on Climate Adaptation from the Georgetown Climate Center

The Georgetown Climate Center has just released a valuable report with 100 recommendations to improve federal programs in response to climate change. Among other things, Preparing Our Communities for Climate Impacts: Recommendations for Federal Action, recognizes and emphasizes the important role of state and local governments in climate change adaptation. For me, the key point is that federal funding and federal permitting should require upfront consideration and adjustment for potential climate change impacts. This looks to be a valuable report and hopefully many agency officials will take the time to read it.


September 7, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Conference Announcement: Planning, Law and Property Rights Conference

Submissions for PLPR's 2015 meeting are now open. Looks like a great theme and an excellent location. Anyone interested in sponsoring a promising young law professor from Buffalo?

Planning, Law and Property Rights Conference 2015
25-27 February 2015, Volos, Greece


The International Academic Association on Planning, Law, and Property Rights (PLPR) attracts academics in spatial planning, land-use and property law, real estate or related disciplines from all parts of the world (learn more about PLPR on and explores urban issues, legislative frameworks, and land ownership.

Planning matters. Law matters. Property matters.

Three simple messages inspiring the growing PLPR community to examine the difficult relationship between public and private interests in the use of land.

The Academic Association's functions aim at:

  • Serving as an academic peer group for research in the field. To promote research with a cross-national comparative perspective so as to enable exchange of knowledge that is so lacking in the current state of research.
  • Exchanging approaches and methods in the teaching of planning law to planning students.
  • Supporting young academics researching in the fields of planning, law, and property rights.


The conference will be held at the Department of Planning and Regional Development (DPRD) of University of Thessaly located in Volos (Greece) on 25-27 February 2015.

Call for abstracts/papers

Abstract submission starts on 1st September 2014 and ends on 13 October 2014.

PLPR 2015 Conference welcomes any topic based on theoretical analysis, research and/or practice related to planning and law, property rights on land, real estate studies, or planning and regulatory instruments. We welcome contributions from scholars and practitioners in planning, law, real estate and related economic issues, and we especially encourage graduate students working on topics within this realm to submit their abstracts. Indicative topics of the invited contributions can be the following:

  • Urban planning and development, urban regeneration
  • Environmental planning & sustainable development
  • Housing and building regulations
  • Governance, public participation and planning law
  • Human rights and social justice
  • Climate change and planning law
  • Public/private sector and planning law
  • Property rights and the market
  • Cultural heritage protection

We warmly encourage initiatives for special sessions. Please check out the proposed special sessions so far at  

Professor Richard K. Norton (University of Michigan) will be in charge of a double-blind peer review for each submitted abstract. Once all abstracts have been reviewed, authors of accepted abstracts will be notified. 


Authors must use the template provided by the conference. Abstracts should not exceed 400 words. Please also see instructions for the submission procedure at

Important deadlines

  • 13/10/2014: Abstract submission  
  • 15/12/2014: Early registration

More information

Additional information on the conference are available at the conference website:


September 6, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Big Box" Costco agrees to cut greenhouse gas refrigerant emissions nationwide

EPA describes this week's settlement between the United States and Costco as indicative of a more aggressive policy by the federal government to use the Clean Air Act to prosecute the largest GHG emitters, including grocery stores -- a continuing shift in federal priorities that will be of interest to state and local government law practitioners and scholars, as well as those of us who focus on the intersection of local land use law and climate change.

In a settlement announced on Wednesday by the DOJ and EPA, Costco agreed to cut its emissions of GHGs from refrigeration equipment at more than half of its stores nationwide. Costco will also pay $335,000 in penalties for CAA violations and improve refrigerant management at 274 stores at an estimated cost of $2 million over the next three years.

Sam Hirsch, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, responded to the settlement, saying

"Industry needs to lead the way in abandoning harmful chemicals in favor of using and developing greener, environmentally friendly alternatives to protect our health and our climate."

EPA and DOJ announced that the measures required by the settlement are expected to reduce Costco’s GHG emissions by the equivalent of approximately 30,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. The GHG at issue in the settlement is actually hydrochlorofluorocarbon (from leaks of the refrigerant R-22), which is a more potent GHG than carbon dioxide.

Some may question whether the settlement requires enough of Costco, the nation's second largest retailer, given annual revenues of over $100 billion (in 2013, as reported by EPA).  

The proposed settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

Read the proposed settlement and related documents here.

By Professor Sarah J. Adams-Schoen, Director of Touro Law's Land Use & Sustainable Development Institute. You can follow the Institute's blog here, and contact Professor Adams-Schoen by email or phone (, (631)761-7137).

September 6, 2014 in Climate, Environmental Law, Federal Government, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 5, 2014

A big thank you to John Travis Marshall and Ryan Rowberry

On behalf of all the editors here, I wanted to thank John Travis Marshall and Ryan Rowberry for their great blogging in August.  Both provided great new perspectives, a variety of voices, and are welcome back at the blog any time.

Stephen R. Miller

September 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement revised to add resiliency focus

In 2005, the U.S. Conference of Mayors launched the U.S. Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement, a landmark pledge by mayors from all across the country to take local action to reduce carbon emissions from city operation and by the community at large, consistent with the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. More than 1060 mayors signed the Agreement.  

In June, 2014, that Agreement was updated primarily to add a section seeking a new focus on urban resiliency.  A copy of the new Agreement is here.  A copy of the press release is here.  

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is now asking mayors across the country to sign on to the new Agreement.  Perhaps now is the time to check and see if your local mayor has done so and, perhaps, offer a nudge to implementation, as well.

Stephen R. Miller

September 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Free AESS Webinar on Sustainable Development Goals on Monday the 8th

The Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) is offering a free webinar next Monday. Looks like a good way to spend your lunch hour.

UN Sustainable Development Goals Setting Agenda for Sustainability in the U.S. and Globally

September 8, 2014 

12:00pm to 2:00pm EST
(presentation from 12:00-12:45 followed by a Q&A and discussion period)

About the Webinar

The webinar presentation and moderated discussion will introduce and discuss the Sustainable Development Goals which were released in the July 19th, 2014 consensus Outcome Document negotiated by the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This Outcome Document will be considered by the UN General Assembly in the fall 2014, and has the potential to set national and international agendas for sustainability. The webinar and discussion will explore goals for agriculture, biodiversity, climate, energy, water, and sustainable consumption and production, and how these might be implemented in the US, North America and Europe. It will also focus on how the SDGs may affect the global development agenda, and drive public and private finance and partnerships in developed and developing countries.

September 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Property Law Journal: JLPS

The Association for Law, Property, and Society (ALPS) just published the first issue of its new journal. The Journal for Law, Property, and Society is an open source peer edited journal is starting with a bang with a piece by Joe Singer. We here at Land Use Profs are all big fans of the ALPS conference and are excited to see what this new journal has in store.

September 5, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Novel Strategy For Holding Banks Accountable for Blight

Moving to the Chicago area after reading about its land use history from afar for decades is like watching the first half of a particularly engrossing movie and then suddenly finding myself thrust into the world on the screen, immersed in the place and surrounded by its characters going about their lives.  For that reason, readers of this blog can look forward to several posts inspired by Chicago and its environs from me this month.  

The starkest example of continuity between past and present is in the role of banks in Chicago’s housing segregation and current neighborhood revitalization efforts.   There’s a lot to say about this, so my inaugural post is a two-parter.

Racial Dot Map, ChicagoChicago’s history of housing segregation has always been inextricably linked to institutional factors, including the lack of viable financing options for black homeowners.  I remember first learning about the role of the federal government and the banks in perpetuating neighborhood segregation and decline way back in law school, from Kenneth Jackson’s Crabgrass Frontier and Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton’s American Apartheid.  More recently, Ta-Nehesi Coats, in his Atlantic article "The Case For Reparations," vividly details the process by which a lack of bank financing led black families to transact with unscrupulous contract sellers, resulting in wealth for the contract financiers and poverty and decline for the families and neighborhoods affected.  (Despite the controversy engendered by the article's title and thesis, those sections are going to become required reading for my next Property class.  Nothing I've read better illustrates the trap of contract loans.)  [Image Credit: 2010 Racial Dot Map, Chicago detail.  Copyright, 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, (Dustin A. Cable, creator)].

As it turns out, the overwhelming influence of banks in shaping neighborhoods continues today.  For example, as in many areas of the country, many neighborhoods in Chicago are struggling to deal with the blight caused by vacant houses, including so-called “zombie houses” -- vacant houses for which banks have filed but not completed the foreclosure process, which neither the absent owners nor the banks maintain, making them magnets for crime.  The Chicago Reporter's Angela Caputo wrote an excellent story on this problem earlier this year, focusing on the heroic efforts of neighborhood groups in reclaiming one such house in a predominantly black and Latino stretch of Chicago’s Southwest side.

Zombie Houses ChicagoOf course, Chicago is far from alone in struggling with this persistent effect of the foreclosure crisis.  States and municipalities nationwide have responded in various ways, including by enacting legislation requiring banks to register vacant properties and imposing stricter penalties for a failure to maintain those properties (though they may find it difficult to actually collect the fines.)  Banks object to laws imposing liability on them for properties they do not own, arguing that until foreclosure is completed, maintenance of the property is the responsibility of the borrower.  But properties can remain in “zombie” status for years, including long after the original homeowner has left.  As the Chicago Reporter graphic at left shows, in Chicago alone, over 3,000 foreclosure fillings initiated in 2008-2011 were yet to be closed by the end of 2013.

Other jurisdictions have sued banks demanding they maintain blighted buildings, or have boarded up the buildings at taxpayer expense then sued the banks to recoup the costs. In Chicago, according to Caputo,  "Chicago taxpayers have spent $36 million boarding up and knocking down blighted buildings during the past three years. Banks have kicked in very little to clean up the foreclosure mess. The city has recouped only $453,000 toward the cost over that time."

Not surprisingly, the resulting disrepair and neglect affect some neighborhoods more than others.  From Caputo's article:  “We found that when banks had properties in good areas, they kept them nice, secure and neat,” says Deputy Corporation Counsel Judy Frydland. “In, let’s say, not-so-nice areas, that wasn’t the case.”

Chicago neighborhood groups that are fighting to rid their areas of dangerous vacant properties want the City to pressure the banks in a different way: by denying the banks access to the billions of dollars in business that flow through the City government every year.

 Caputo again:

Roughly half of the vacant properties are linked to six banks—Bank of New York, US Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank….Each of these banks does business with City Hall. Since the housing market collapsed in 2008, they have managed $1.4 billion worth of taxpayer money as depositories or provided credit or debt services, according to city payment records.
Some suggest that City Hall should treat banks like it does other scofflaws and cut off the flow of public business when they are in violation of vacant property maintenance laws.

Not surprisingly, the community group that approached City Hall with this novel and radical proposal was told that the idea was a non-starter.  A state or municipality's refusal to transact with banks as long as they are in violation of the law would certainly get the banks' attention; presumably, this would come at a cost that municipal leaders are unwilling to consider.

That led me to wonder: have any other jurisdictions attempted this technique, threatening to stem the flow of governmental business to banks that own or have filed foreclosure on dangerous vacant homes while failing to adequately address neighborhood blight that their actions have caused?  If you know of any, I’d love to hear about it.

Meanwhile, individuals and neighborhood groups labor mightily to reclaim and restore empty homes.  Tomorrow I’ll talk about some of the barriers faced by those who do wish to purchase and fix up properties in distressed neighborhoods.  Spoiler alert: the banks don’t come off very well in tomorrow’s post either.

H/T to Christine Wachter for leading me to this story, and thanks to the Chicago Reporter for permission to print the accompanying graphic.

~Celeste Pagano

September 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Do you know a land use prof who has been ice bucket challenged? Send us the video!

Land use profs are not immune from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge; well, at least this one isn't.  See video below.  Any other land use profs out there who recently had ice water poured over them?  We want the video!

ALS #icebucketchallenge Boise Faculty | University of Idaho College of Law from U-Idaho College of Law on Vimeo.

Stephen R. Miller

September 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call For Papers: Rethinking the Role of Law in Urban Planning, Policy & Development

I just received this interesting call for papers that looks to be right up our alley. This journal (peer reviewed and published by MIT) is not one that I regularly read, but glancing at their past issues reveals some interesting projects and questions.

Rethinking the Role of Law in Urban Planning, Policy and Development
Projections (Vol. 12)
Department of Urban Studies and Planning, MIT
Due date for abstracts: 30th of October 2014

It is well recognized that Law has played an important role in institutionalizing the field of Planning, as well as in shaping the processes of urban development. The engagement of planning academia with legal scholarship has, however, largely been limited to issues of zoning, development controls, and other aspects of land use, though planners’ interventions are no longer confined to these domains. Planners’ understanding of law has artificially restricted itself to linear and single-scale approaches, instead of considering urban planning in a global legal frame. Moreover, planners have not fully engaged with established traditions of legal analysis such as socio-legal studies, legal realism, critical race and feminist legal theory, and a variety of non-European critiques. Instead, planners’ engagements with Law have typically followed the liberal model which conflates legal doctrine with the complex relationship between Law and social processes. Liberal legalism has been, for example, particularly ill-suited to understand the rapid expansion of the informal sector in urban settings, both in developed and in developing societies.

The new issue of Projections, the journal of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), will attempt to channelize attention to the role of Law in the planning academy. By bringing new perspectives and methods of legal analysis into urban planning scholarship, it will seek to bring Planning and Law in closer conversation with each other, and encourage critical traditions in each to dialogue with each other. Scholars and practitioners of Law, Planning, Geography and other social sciences are invited to submit abstracts of articles proposed for publication in this volume of Projections. The editors of this volume welcome articles containing empirical research as well as essays that delve into theoretical questions on the role of Law in urban planning. The editors are also particularly interested in insights from regions of the world that have been otherwise under-represented in planning scholarship, and modes of legal analysis that contest the Euro-centrism inherent in both Law and Planning.

The scope of this volume includes, but is not limited to, heterodox legal analysis on topics related to processes of urbanization such as:

a) tenure security in informal settlements;
b) governance of land and displacement;
c) decentralization and local governments;
d) urban labor market institutions;
e) urban poverty alleviation programs;
f) special economic zones and international trade;
g) housing mortgage market and other financial institutions;
h) infrastructure (water, electricity, transportation and waste management);
i) human rights and urban planning including the right to the city;
j) mega-events and international tourism; and
k) crime, violent conflict and urban policing.

Authors interested in publishing their articles in this volume are requested to email the student editor an abstract of about 300-600 words. Any further enquiries on the scope of the volume may be directed to Karthik Rao-Cavale (

Due date for abstracts: 30th of October 2014

Notification to selected authors: 15th of November 2014

Full Papers due: 15st of February 2014

Results of Peer review: 28th April 2015

Publication date (tentative): Summer/Fall 2015

Student Editor: Karthik Rao-Cavale (
PhD Candidate, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Faculty Advisor: Balakrishnan Rajagopal (
Associate Professor of Law and Development, Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Editorial Board of Volume 12
Gabriella Carolini (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Marie Huchzermeyer (University of the Witwatersrand)
Peter Marcuse (Columbia University)
Partha Chatterjee (Columbia University)
Susan Silbey (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Eran Ben-Joseph (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Boaventura de Sousa Santos (University of Coimbria)
Antonio Azuela (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)

September 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 24: Texas A&M Law symposium: A Review: Peter Gerhart’s Property Law and Social Morality

From Tim Mulvaney:


The Journal of Real Property Law invites you to its 4th annual symposium,

“A Review: Peter Gerhart’s Property Law and Social Morality,”

at Texas A&M University School of Law

on October 24, 2014 from 8:00 A.M. - 2:00 P.M.

CLE Credit Pending


This symposium is dedicated to Peter Gerhart’s development of a single theory to ex- plain the relationship between common and private property and how that relationship is defined by social customs.

The symposium will address both the theoretical underpinnings of Gerhart’s work and the real-world application of the ideas Gerhart sets forth. Substantive ideas shall include but are not limited to, nuisance law, environmental regulation, and the takings power.

Panelists Include:



University of Akron School of Law



George Mason University School of Law



Case Western Reserve University School of Law



Louisiana State University Paul M. Herbert Law Center



Marquette University Law School



Vanderbilt Law School



Cornell University Law School

The law school is honored to welcome these panelists, as well as Tony Buzbee, Esq., Managing Partner of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, TX, and member of the Texas A&M University Board of Regents, who will deliver the symposium’s keynote address.


September 4, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pace Law's 2014 Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference - December 5

Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Conference
Transitioning Communities

The Pace Law School Land Use Law Center is pleased to announce the theme of its 2014 Land Use and Sustainable Development Conference - Transitioning Communities.  The Conference will discuss topics and challenges that municipalities in the region are being faced with, such as the changing demographic pattern, changing community needs, the impact of a shrinking or growing pattern of development, and transitions between community environments - the suburban/rural-urban interface. The Conference will also highlight how communities are transitioning towards sustainability, disaster recovery, and revitalization. We will aim our sessions at addressing the needs of communities already in transition, as well as the idea of how to proactively transition communities toward something new. We invite you to spend the day at this educational event, with more than 250 attorneys, business professionals, and local leaders in attendance to learn about national, regional, and local innovations, challenges, and best practices.

There are several interesting sessions on the schedule, and we recently confirmed that Mitchell Silver, NYC Parks Commissioner; Past President, American Planning Association; Former Raleigh Chief Planning Officer; and City Innovator and Kaid Benfield, Special Counsel for Urban Solutions, Natural Resources Defense Council, will be our keynote speakers.

Conference participants can earn CLE, APA-CM, and New York State planning and zoning training credits.

We hope you can join us for this day-long event scheduled for December 5, 2014 at Pace Law School in the NYS Judicial Institute building.

There is additional information available on our conference page.

September 3, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)